From the Archives: As St. Louis crowns Frontiere, Rams fans are left holding the bag
Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. He was a Los Angeles Rams All Pro end.()
Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield with Tom Fears and Norm Van Brocklin of the Los Angeles Rams in 1951.(Vic Stein / NFL)
Los Angeles Rams halfback Glenn Davis on a carry in a 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns in a League Championship game Dec. 23, 1951, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.(Vic Stein / NFL)
Coach Joe Stydahar and members of the Los Angeles Rams celebrate winning the National Football League Championship 24-17 over the Cleveland Browns in game at the Coliseum.(Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times)
1952 photo of Bob Waterfield, Los Angeles Ram team captain.(Los Angeles Times)
Norm Van Brocklin of the Los Angeles Rams in an undated photo.(Associated Press)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel (18), with the only clean uniform on the team, calls a huddle with his muddy teammates during a game with Minnesota Vikings in the Twin Cities on Dec. 1, 1968. Gabriel was tackled only once, in the last quarter. Los Angeles downed the Vikings, 31-3.(AP)
Hall of Fame defensive end David “Deacon” Jones (75) of the Los Angeles Rams during the Rams 10-7 victory over the Detroit Lions on Nov. 3, 1968, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.(Associated Press)
Merlin Olsen, right, of the Los Angeles Rams, battles Atlanta guard Gregg Kindle in Olsen’s final regular-season game in Los Angeles on Dec. 4, 1976. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound star was retiring with a club record of 207 games. The Rams won 59-0 to take their fourth straight National Football Conference Western Division title.(Associated Press)
This 1964 handout provided by NFL photos, shows the Los Angeles Rams defensive front four, known as the “Fearsome Foursome.” From left to right are Lamar Lundy (85), Merlin Olsen (74), Rosey Grier (76) and Deacon Jones (75).(NFL )
Steeler and Rams fans at Super Bowl XIV, held Jan. 20, 1980, at the Rose Bowl.(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo (15) prepares to pass, but never gets the ball past Steelers Robin Cole (56). Ferregamo is sacked on the play during Super Bowl XIV action at the Rose Bowl.(Associated Press)
Dec. 26, 1977: Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood walks the sidelines after the Minnesota Vikings scored a fourth-quarter toughdown to take a 14-0 lead in an NFL playoff game. Vikings won 14-7.(Michael Mally / Los Angeles Times)
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann (88) goes up for a touchdown catch as Los Angeles Rams defenders Pat Thomas (27) and Nolan Cromwell (21) arrive too late during third-quarter action in Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena.(Associated Press)
Tom Mack of the Los Angeles Rams watches from the sidelines during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on Nov. 20, 1977, in San Francisco. The Rams defeated the Niners 23-10.(Michael Zagaris / Getty Images)
“Mean” Joe Greene #75 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jackie Slater #78 of the Los Angeles Rams joke around on the field after Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 20, 1980. The Steelers defeated the Rams 31-19.(Focus On Sports)
Head coach John Robinson at a Rams full squad workout in 1991.(Gary Ambrose / Los Angeles Times)
Wide receiver Isaac Bruce #80 of the Los Angeles Rams enters the field at an exhibition game against the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum on Aug. 12, 1995. The Raiders won 27-22.(George Rose / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson (29) breaks away from Tampa Bay Buccaneers defender Ricky Easmon (26) for a big gainer Oct. 6, 1986, in Anaheim. Dickerson scored two touchdowns, the final one coming on a 42-yard run in overtime giving the Rams a 26-20 win.(Lennox McLendon / Associated Press)
From left, Giants Mike Fox, Erik Howard, and Michael Strahan try to stop Rams running back Jerome Bettis (36) in the fourth quarter Oct. 16, 1994, at Anaheim Stadium.(David Fitzgerald / Los Angeles Times)
Rams owner Georgia Frontiere with her team during picture day in 1993.(Los Angeles Times)
Jackie Slater says goodbye to his fans at the last home game on Christmas Eve 1994.(Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)
Rams owner Georgia Frontiere is applauded in 1995 by Rep. Richard Gephardt and former Sen. Thomas Eagleton, two of the many who were responsible for getting the Rams to move to St. Louis.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
The coronation of Queen Georgia, Empress of St. Louis, was something to behold, assuming you were beholding an air-sickness bag while you watched the live cable feed from Cervantes Convention Center.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Queen Georgia confided to her adoring audience, who welcomed her to the podium with cheers, whoops, whistles, deafening applause and not one “PLEASE GEORGIA, SELL THE TEAM” banner.
“I don’t think I’ve been this happy since the last game we won.”
In St. Louis, this breezy one-liner brought forth a deluge of laughter.
In Orange County, you imagined ashtrays and coffee mugs being flung through television screens.
Truth be told, the Rams, not the Cowboys, have always been America’s Team. America’s Squatters. The travelogue now reads: three states, three time zones, four cities and no trips to the victory stand to accept the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Can’t be everywhere at once.
“A lot of things will have to happen,” Queen Georgia continued, “to make the Rams the team that we all envision, and I’m going to make sure those begin the minute this conference is over.”
Alas, that minute passed, along with many more, and Frontiere still held controlling interest in the team.
NFL owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles and give the San Diego Chargers the option to join. The Oakland Raiders will not be moving to Los Angeles.
“I grew up here,” Queen Georgia reminded her people, her new ready-to-shell-out-$250-to-$4,500-in-seat-licensing-fees constituency, “and one thing about the people of St. Louis and all of my teachers, they instilled in me the principles of honesty, integrity, persistence and the will to succeed.”
Shoot, St. Louis, anyone in Orange County could have told you that.
“All I can say,” Queen Georgia concluded, “I never stopped loving and being proud of St. Louis, and I’m so thrilled to be back and to be able to bring something to what I will always consider my hometown.”
Although she is maintaining her residences in Arizona and Southern California.
“Thank you very much.”
And then, Queen Georgia was into her Rocky routine, thrusting both arms triumphantly in the air, shaking her right fist as it clenched a black Magic Marker, before moving over to a wall-sized “NFL Franchise Relocation Agreement,” where she dotted her I’s and crossed her T at precisely 2:58 (CST).
We have a new champion--this snippet of videotape featuring Frontiere gloating and exulting over the demise of Southern California’s first major-league franchise, while Kool and the Gang’snoxious “Celebrate” boomed in the background.
“It made me sick to my stomach,” said agent Leigh Steinberg, Save the Rams point man, who watched the entire wretched episode from his Newport Beach office.
“OK, you got a team. But don’t cloak it as some moment of liberation--'Our long, arduous struggle to get a football team.’ How about that one? They made it sound like they were putting an end to apartheid in South Africa.
Steinberg angrily recounted St. Louis’ unrequited romance with the NFL, post-Cardinals.
“They lost their team, so they tried to steal the New England Patriots. That fell apart when the Patriots were sold to a local guy.
“Then they went back for a third bite and applied for an expansion team. Paul Tagliabue is carefully building a league for the future, he just signed a TV contract with Fox, which attracts a young audience. He looked at St. Louis and said, ‘No, we want to move into the Sun Belt.’
“Now, they’ve gone in for a fourth bite. They’ve stolen the Rams. It’s not good for the NFL and it’s not good for professional sports.”
“No owner will say anything publicly. I would expect them to support the Rams publicly or just be neutral. When the San Francisco Giants announced they were moving to Tampa, it’s not like the owners in the National League were saying, ‘Bad Bob Lurie, we’re not going to let him leave.’
“Things move quietly and behind closed doors in the NFL. I think we have a viable chance.”
It’s not much to hang an L.A. Rams cap on, but, for the next two months, anyway, it’s something.
“Pick up your pens and write to Paul Tagliabue and owners around the NFL. Tell them, ‘This is not right.’ Professional sports is one of the few businesses were corporate presidents read their mail. We know Georgia Frontiere does. In the NFL, public support of a cause can make a difference.”
Write on the back of those air sickness bags.
Assuming a few went unused Tuesday.
ALSO FROM THE ARCHIVES: Remembering when the Rams left
Go beyond the scoreboard
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